By Owei Lakemfa
A LARGE chunk of the media last week was taken over by reports and comments about the earthshaking, or is it ground breaking foundation laying ceremony of the Transport University in Daura. The star of the ceremony was not President Muhammadu Buhari, but his Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi who regaled us with tales how he coerced the Chinese into agreeing to build the institution.
He could not understand why tongues were wagging about locating the university in the President’s hometown. He argued: “Daura is in Nigeria, it is not in any other part of the world. It is not in Niger Republic, Biafra or Mali, it is in Nigeria.” I am still searching for the part of the world a country called Biafra can be located; obviously Google is an outdated search engine.
Amaechi speaking further, boasted: “The decision to bring this university to Daura was purely mine.” Impressive! In a democracy, a man wakes up in his house and without consulting his fellow cabinet ministers or conducting feasibility studies, decides to site a university in a town even without consulting the people of Daura? That shows he is a very powerful man. His personal instincts and value judgement, are good enough for the country. Amaechi must have shut his eyes over a map of the country, randomly placed his finger on a part, and decided that is where the university will be built, and that coincidentally, happened to be Daura, the home town of his boss, President Buhari.
I believe the minister when he swore he has nothing to gain by his patriotic and selfless choice of Daura. The spirit must have directed Amaechi to pick Daura; when he leaves office as a minister, I suggest he takes up a teaching job in a nursery school where he can tell such fairy tales to babies.
As for those who claim the minister’s statements are fake news, they should dare repeat such after the Hate Speech Bill would have become law. It is then they will realize that they are candidates for the gallows. Governor Aminu Bello Masari of Katsina State must have read minister Amaechi’s mind that the university, though a federal institution in name, is a private gift to the state. So at the ceremony he said the university will further boost the efforts of the state in providing sound education and technical skills to indigenes of the state.
Despite minister Amaechi’s explanation that that he alone took the decision to site the university in Daura, there are legions of people especially on the social media who are accusing our upright president of selfishly choking Daura with federal projects. These include the newly approved Federal Polytechnic, Daura, the newly commissioned Nigeria Air Force Reference Hospital, Daura, The Nigeria Air Force Quick Response Wing, Daura; the Nigeria Army Forwarding Operating Base, Daura; the new Nigeria Army 171 Battalion to be built in Daura, the NDE Skills Acquisition Centre, Daura, the Federal Medical Centre being relocated from the capital, Katsina to Daura; as well as the construction of a new railway project that will run from Kano through Daura and Jibia to Maradi in neigbouring Niger Republic.
Some even claim that he is not a statesman like the Sardauna of Sokoto who skipped his Sokoto Sultanate to site the Ahmadu Bello University in the Zauzzau Emirate; Chief Obafemi Awolowo who left his Ikenne home to site the regional university in Ife or Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe who travelled all the way from his Onitsha home town to site the University of Nigeria in Nsukka. I think the comparison is unfair because they lived in a different milieu.
With such unfair commentaries, I begin to see the wisdom in the Hate Speech Bill (The National Commission for the Prohibition of Hate Speeches (Est. etc.) Bill, 2019, by Senator Dr. Aliyu Abdullahi Sabi, the Baraden Borgu and senator representing Niger North Senatorial District. For those who believe, Sabi was destined to give the country such a bill; his name, Sabi in Pidgin English, means someone who knows a lot or too much; who is very knowledgeable and well informed. Secondly, the distinguished senator has very strong views; he believes in sacrificing some for the good of the whole; hanging a few bad people for the good of the majority.
Thirdly, he is strong willed; lesser humans would have given way under the avalanche of criticism over the bill that prescribes death for offenders. Fourthly, Sabi has had bitter experiences from hate speech and fake news. For instance, it is reported that on Friday, November 3, 2017 he was harassed by his constituents obviously based on unverified claims. If his bill is passed, Sabi can get his tormentors tried, sentenced to life imprisonment or hanged.
Already he has the backing of the powerful United States whose Political Officer in its Embassy, Jerry Howard, visited Sabi and chided Nigerians for being “hysterical” about such an “impressive” bill. That bill, and its Siamese twin, the Social Media Bill by Senator Mohammed Sani Musa (also from Niger State) when passed, will allow our leaders to govern without unnecessary distractions, and also reduce our huge population.
Personally, I have begun to have a lot of sympathy for Senator Musa because hate speech militants continue to mischievously show that the distinguished senator patriotically copied a similar law in Singapore. But it is false that he copied the historic bill because everywhere, the name Singapore appeared, it was replaced by Nigeria. Again, Senator Musa carried out a lot of study and hard work on the original law including changing a whole word in the Singaporean law. For instance where Singapore in Part Two had the title: “Prohibition of Communication of False Statement of Fact in Singapore” Musa’s Part Two reads: “ Prohibition of Transmission of False Statement of Fact in Nigeria.”
Certainly, this is not a copy and paste job, it is plagiarism, and plagiarism is not criminal, rather, it is an art for which we should commend the distinguished senator and recommend him for the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature. I read that the difference between plagiarism and research is that in the former, you copy from one book while in the case of a research, you copy from many books.
A pastor some few days ago got me worried when he prophesied that leading to the 2023 Presidential elections, there will be brutal battles for the soul of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC. I instinctively asked, has the APC a soul? Why should a man of God indulge in such prophesies rather than maintain his professional lane of preaching peace and winning souls? So which of the proposed laws will this prophesy be offending; hate speech, fake news or false prophesy?